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Voces Oral History Center Interview with Celeste Velazco

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0:09 - Preamble--Introductions 3:05 - Personal Impact: Work and Socialization

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Segment Synopsis: Celeste Velazco is an international student from Venezuela studying at the University of Florida in the city of Gainesville. Besides being a full-time student, she also works multiple jobs, which turned remote after the coronavirus arrived in Florida. While she doesn’t have to worry about mundane tasks such as meal prepping and catching the bus, her biggest concern revolves around socialization.

Due to COVID-19, and the lack of social interaction emplaced by social distancing she says, as an extroverted person, it has been difficult. However, in the midst of the pandemic, Celeste makes sure to exercise safely and take the proper safety precautions whether she’s at the Publix Supermarket buying groceries or at the mall returning a purchase.

She notices that her generation thinks that this virus is mild, but she thinks otherwise due to her friend, who is 25 years old, contracting the virus and having to check-in at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville. Due to hospital procedures and the pause of visitation she stayed texting or FaceTiming her until she was able to feel better and go back home. To prevent more situations like this, Celeste doesn't go bar hopping or to restaurants, which is what several others were doing in Gainesville.

Keywords: Campus life; Coronavirus; COVID-19 (Disease)--Positive; Facility--Hospital; Financial Impact; Pandemic; Pandemic--Job Transition; Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); Public Health Measures; Quarantine--Pastimes; Recovery--Coronavirus; Remote Working--COVID-19 (Disease); Social Distancing; United States; University of Florida Health Shands Hospital; University Regulations--Pandemic--Coronavirus; University--Student Employees; Venezuela

Subjects: College students--Education; Coronavirus infections—Diagnosis; COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 (Disease)--Patients; COVID-19 (Disease)--Prevention; COVID-19 (Disease)--Safety measures; Florida--Gainesville; Higher education; Hispanics (United States); International students; Latino Americans; Latinos (United States); Publix Super Markets; Quarantine--Social aspects; Quarantine--United States; Social Interaction--United States; Spanish-speaking people (United States); University of Florida

14:33 - Challenges in Education: Work During a Pandemic and Stressors

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Segment Synopsis: Celeste was fortunate to already have online classes before the pandemic, but she did notice that her classmates were struggling to get accustomed to remote learning. She was particularly worried about her jobs, such as, what being a student assistant at George Smathers Library, located at The University of Florida, would look like. However, much of the administrative work was turned into social media work and her employers were very supportive throughout the transition process.

Celeste also notes that her experience as an immigrant, allows her to be more adaptable and flexible with change of plans compared to other individuals. Despite, these many transitions brought upon by the Coronavirus Celeste says that a positive that has come with not leaving her home is that she has saved a lot of money and is optimistic that she can survive until the end of 2020. However, most of her friends were working jobs that were not able to be remote, such as retail, so they had a more pessimistic outlook.

Celeste notes that some students were not able to start their internships, had rescinded job offers, or that some even had to work in public spaces to financially survive. The University of Florida has been offering grants and financial aid for students that need it, which Celeste received, but a major concern is reopening in the fall. Celeste says, due to the unclear communication from the university concerning their future plans has left students unsure about housing.

Keywords: Campus life; Coronavirus; Financial Impact; George Smathers Library (Florida); Pandemic; Pandemic--Job Transition; Public Health Measures; Remote Working--COVID-19 (Disease); Social Distancing; United States; University Regulations--Pandemic--Coronavirus; University Safety Measures--Coronavirus; University--Student Employees

Subjects: College students--Education; Coronavirus infections--Diagnosis; COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 (Disease)--Prevention; COVID-19 (Disease)--Safety measures; Florida--Gainesville; Higher education; Housing--Florida--Gainesville; Quarantine--Social aspects; Quarantine--United States; Social Interaction--United States; Students--Florida--Gainesville—Attitudes; Unemployment; University of Florida

23:15 - Fall 2020 Transition: Personal Opinion, University & Professors Responses, and Impact on Latinx Community

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Segment Synopsis: Celeste does not think the university should reopen in the fall because there is too much at-risk. In particular, she points out library entrances and the health risks that librarians will have to face, along with the financial struggles teachers face and not having the right materials for students.

While most classes will be online, she disagrees with the incoming freshmen who want the college experience and are willing to come to Gainesville despite the pandemic. According to Celeste, communication from the university has been very ambiguous and brief in comparison to surrounding universities, such as Florida State University and Florida International University.

She wishes that university officials would be more empathetic with students, but tuition has not been lowered and emails are too repetitive with no new information. However, she says professors were more communicative with students and took the time to explain class policies and structures. Overall, she mentions it’s dependent on the individual and department. Other stress factors include apartment subleases, the former I.C.E. announcement dealing with international students, and class schedules. The Latinx community seems to be conscious and aware, according to Celeste, and there is increased political activism occurring within them.

Keywords: Campus life; Coronavirus; Education--Online-Learning; Financial Impact; Pandemic; Pandemic--Job Transition; Pandemic--University--Student--Communication; Public Health Measures; Remote Working--COVID-19 (Disease); Social Distancing; United States; University Regulations--Pandemic--Coronavirus; University Safety Measures—Coronavirus

Subjects: College students--Education; Coronavirus infections—Diagnosis; COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 (Disease)--Patients; COVID-19 (Disease)--Prevention; COVID-19 (Disease)--Safety measures; Florida International University; Florida State University; Florida--Gainesville; Higher education; Hispanics (United States); International students; Latino Americans; Latinos (United States); Quarantine--Social aspects; Quarantine--United States; Social Interaction--United States; Spanish-speaking people (United States); Students--Florida--Gainesville—Attitudes; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; University of Florida

35:10 - Social Movements: Student & University Responses

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Segment Synopsis: Due to the virus, Celeste has not participated in any of the Black Lives Matter protests, but her friends have, which she finds amazing. She does her part at home by signing petitions, donating money, and passing information along to spur more conversations.

In the Gainesville community, a vigil for Breonna Taylor was put together as well as a mural on 34th street. Celeste adds, despite the white supremacy community in North Florida, students are having complicated conversations on Facebook groups and raising awareness. Celeste notes that Generation Z is full of activism, which can be seen through Tik-Tok and recent university decisions. Such as, The University of Florida rescinding several admissions to students that have expressed racist comments or behaviors on social media.

Celeste says, that the university has as well started taking action on doing away with traditions done at the university that are rooted in discrimination. One of those being their old “Gator Bait” chant, which has racist connotations. The university decided to end the tradition and she disagrees with students who think the chant should remain. Other university initiatives include a community service project and town halls from the college of journalism. The responses and further initiatives vary by the department within the university.

Keywords: Activism and Advocacy; Campus life; Coronavirus; Education--Online-Learning; Facility--Hospital; News Coverage--COVID-19 (Disease); Pandemic; Pandemic--University--Student--Communication; Prison Labor; Protest; Public Health Measures; Remote Working--COVID-19 (Disease); Social Distancing; United States; University of Florida--Fight Song; University Regulations--Pandemic--Coronavirus; University Safety Measures—Coronavirus

Subjects: Black lives matter movement--United States; College students--Education; COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 (Disease)--Patients; COVID-19 (Disease)--Prevention; COVID-19 (Disease)--Safety measures; Florida—Gainesville; Generation Z--Attitudes; Higher education; Quarantine--Social aspects; Quarantine--United States; Social Interaction--United States; Social movements; Students--Florida--Gainesville—Attitudes; University of Florida

47:31 - University Reopening Policies & Gainesville Support

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Segment Synopsis: The University of Florida has adopted policies that include mandatory mask wearing inside buildings and student common areas. Celeste’s concerns deal with enforcement of the policies. She’s worried about the magnitude of students that will be back on campus and how to ensure that health precautions are maintained in place. Examples include social distancing measures such as, students sitting close to each other inside libraries. She also sees a lot of students going to public spaces in groups. Several of them don’t want to wear masks and she fears the potential exposure of the virus to other students.

Celeste argues that masks shouldn’t be a problem because they can be personalized, and the university doesn’t have restrictions on the type of masks that can be worn. But another concern includes whether the university will provide masks if the student does not have theirs or one of their own. More so, there are other university services that have been offered such as changes in financial aid and pick-up services from their food pantry.

Keywords: Campus life; Coronavirus; Education--Online-Learning; Financial Impact; Florida--Gainesville; Pandemic; Pandemic--University--Student--Communication; Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); Public Health Measures; Social Distancing; United States; University Regulations--Pandemic--Coronavirus; University Safety Measures--Coronavirus

Subjects: College students--Education; Coronavirus infections--Diagnosis; COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 (Disease)--Patients; COVID-19 (Disease)--Prevention; COVID-19 (Disease)--Safety measures; Higher education; Quarantine--Social aspects; Quarantine--United States; Social Interaction--United States; Students--Florida--Gainesville—Attitudes; University of Florida

56:47 - Family in Spain

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Segment Synopsis: Celeste’s brother is a doctor in Barcelona, Spain which has been a major stress point for her. Her brother’s hospital is small and was using doctor rotations to deal with the influx of cases. Her brother’s wife is also a doctor and was in a larger hospital where an entire floor was infected, including medical personnel, which made Celeste feel uneasy. To add to that, she would read stories on Facebook and Twitter about the lasting effects of the virus.

Her brother, who works in radiology, showed her pictures of the virus’ effect on lungs, which were worrisome even for patients that tested negative for the virus. Throughout the pandemic, her brother never showed symptoms despite the exposure to the virus, but Celeste notes that he could have been asymptomatic. She recalls that her brother and his wife recently went to the beach since cases have diminished in Spain, meanwhile, Celeste is scared to even go grocery shopping.

Keywords: Coronavirus; COVID-19 (Disease)--Asymptomatic; Facility--Hospital; Financial Impact; News Coverage--COVID-19 (Disease); Pandemic; Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); Public Health Measures; Social Distancing

Subjects: Coronavirus infections--Diagnosis; COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 (Disease)--Patients; COVID-19 (Disease)--Prevention; COVID-19 (Disease)--Safety measures; Quarantine--Social aspects; Quarantine--United States; Social Interaction--United States; Spain--Barcelona

61:36 - Governor DeSantis’ Response to Pandemic

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Segment Synopsis: Since Celeste lives in Florida, she notices that the governor’s response is similar to Trump’s response. Regardless, Celeste believes that Governor DeSantis can do more for Florida. He has not implemented a statewide mandate to wear masks and left it up to the counties’ discretion.

She recalls that some cities, like Tampa, did enforce masks in certain businesses. Other places such as Publix, are not enforcing masks. DeSantis’ silence upsets Celeste because earlier in the year, he was criticizing New York for the amount of cases they had.

Betsy DeVos is another person who Celeste finds hypocritical due to her lack of experience and her reopening suggestions in regards educational institutions. Celeste believes that there should be a mandatory mask order, social distancing policies, and certain business closures. Although workers need money and the economy needs to be stimulated, Celeste doesn’t think the risk is worth it. While other countries followed precautions and are now safer than before, Florida remains unsafe.

Keywords: Coronavirus; Education--Online-Learning; Facility—Hospital; Financial Impact; News Coverage--COVID-19 (Disease); Pandemic; Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); Public Health Measures; Quarantine--Pastimes; Ron DeSantis -- Florida Governor; Social Distancing; Trump Administration; United States

Subjects: College students--Education; Coronavirus infections—Diagnosis; COVID-19 (Disease); COVID-19 (Disease)--Patients; COVID-19 (Disease)--Prevention; COVID-19 (Disease)--Safety measures; DeVos, Betsy; Florida--Tampa; Higher education; Quarantine--Social aspects; Quarantine--United States; Social Interaction--United States